The sequel to prehistoric Pride and Prejudice retelling Ivory and Bone (2016) feels more akin to George R.R. Martin than Jane Austen.
Despite her tight emotional reserve, Mya is more than willing to leave her own clan to be with Kol, yet in order to protect her sister from an unwanted betrothal, both young women flee to a distant island. But romantic woes are soon overshadowed by tragedy and violence, as two different clans with vindictive agendas target Mya, Kol, and everyone they love. With each tribe’s survival at stake, both Mya and Kol must choose whether their responsibility is to their people—or their future together. After animal attacks, earthquakes, drowning, illness, betrayal, warfare, and murder, the deaths and near escapes number in the dozens, yet Mya’s restrained first-person present-tense narration remains oddly detached. Occasionally her musings on nature or the (female) Divine approach a stark poetry; more often her meticulous reportage becomes numbing. Eshbaugh has clearly done her research, and the characters and their culture feel convincing and distinct from any modern peoples, although some elements seem scientifically implausible. Mya herself is strong, capable, and of immense integrity; her personal arc, from tentative wariness to a trusting openness to love, is compelling.
Despite its historical-romance package, the emphasis on complicated intertribal politics and the proper manufacture of atlatl darts might appeal more to those interested in anthropology or wilderness survival. (Historical fiction. 12-18)